Creating a bridge between our global challenges and how our body-mind works

Why do we seem unable to make the changes needed to deal with our ecological crisis? Why do we seem unable to profoundly transform our economy and other systems to take ecological realities into account?

I suspect it may be because of evolution1.

We didn’t evolve to take global issues seriously, and we didn’t evolve to think on the scale of centuries and millennia.

We evolved to take care of what’s immediate, tangible, and right in front of us.

That has served us well for millions of years.

And in our global crisis, created by a civilization that is out of alignment with reality, it does not serve us well. It may be what dooms us.

It’s important to correctly diagnose the cause of our ecological crisis and also the cause of our inability to make the necessary changes.

The cause of the problem is our general worldview (of separation) and our systems that assume nature is infinite.

If the cause of our inability is evolution, and we realize that, we may be able to make use of it.

We may be able to set things in place that help us make changes despite our evolutionary handicap. It’s a matter of making our crisis immediate, personal, and urgent. It already is, but many don’t experience it viscerally. How can we help more people get it viscerally?2

Evolution made us perfectly adapted to our way of life up until the modern age, and we are less equipped to deal with our modern life and our current ecocidal civilization. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does mean we need to create a bridge between the global scale of our challenges and the way our bodymind works.

(1) Just like many misdiagnose the cause of the crisis, many misdiagnose our inability to effectively deal with it. Some think the crisis is created by greed, corporations, governments, and so on, while it in reality is created by systems that don’t take ecological realities into account. These systems were put in place at a time when we could afford to assume that nature is infinite, and now – with far more people and more powerful technology – those systems are ecocidal and suicidal. Some think the reasons we are unable to make the necessary changes are the same: greed, corporations, capitalism, and so on. In reality, the reason may be far more innocent and fundamental. It may be evolution.

(2) Of course, sooner or later – and I suspect sooner rather than later, it will be immediate, personal, and urgent for most of us. By then, we are far into the crisis and it will be more difficult to turn around.

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Helpful contexts for my life

I find I have a few contexts for my life that seem helpful

I can also call them pointers or reminders.

Here are some of them, as they look to me now.

DON’T KNOW & QUESTIONS

I don’t know anything for certain, and mental representations are questions about the world.

The nature of thoughts is that they help me navigate and orient in the world. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. They are questions about the world.

The map is not the terrain. Stories are different in kind from what they point to, unless they happen to point to other thoughts. The world is always more than and different from any stories about it, and also less than any story.

To explore: The Work of Byron Katie. Philosophy of science.

MY MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

In one sense, I am this human self in the world, just like my passport and how most people see me.

And I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the field of experience – this human self, others, the wider world – happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into all these experiences.

To explore: Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Basic meditation (over time!).

WHAT WE MOST FUNDAMENTALLY WANT

I can’t speak for all other beings, but I have found some things I – and the different parts of me – more fundamentally want. It’s variations of love, acceptance, connection, safety, belonging, coming home, and so on. If I take a surface desire for anything at all and trace it back to something more essential, I tend to arrive at one of these.

These seem essential and I suspect they are quite universal, based on what I see in the world and what others say.

There is something even more fundamental, and that’s a wish to find our nature, to consciously come home to what we already are. That gives us, in one sense, all the things we look for.

And that doesn’t mean that our human self doesn’t have wants and wishes that we can find the essence of and find ways to fulfill – mainly by giving it to ourselves here and now, and also in life.

To explore: Inquiry, tracing our wishes back to their essentials. What do I hope to get out of it? What do I hope to get out of that? And so on.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever characteristics and dynamics I see out there in others and the world is also here. I can take any statement about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find more than one genuine example of how it’s true. (Including true at the moment I have the thought about someone or something else.)

This is wonderful in several ways. It means I can use my thoughts about others and the world to discover more about myself. It means I can find more of my own richness in myself and in how I live my life. I can explore outside of what I thought were my limits and boundaries, created by identities and ideas about myself. I can more easily recognize myself in others. And so on.

To explore: Projection and shadow work. The Work of Byron Katie.

OVERSHOOT

Our civilization is in overshoot. We are using far more resources than the planet can generate, and we are putting way more waste and toxins into the planet’s circulation than it evolved to deal with.

We would need two planets to provide for the resource use of humanity as a whole, and five or more to provide for the resource use of the Westernized and industrialized world.

This cannot continue.

That’s serious enough in itself, but there is something more serious. This is like spending money from our savings without replenishing it sufficiently. It looks fine for a while, until it’s empty and our lifestyle comes crashing down.

In our case, it’s not only our lifestyle that comes crashing down. It’s likely our whole civilization.

Will we be able to transition into a new and more ecologically sound civilization? How will the crash impact us? How many will die? How many species and ecosystems will die in the process?

We don’t know but it will likely be very challenging for us and any other species.

To explore: Articles and books on overshoot and the ecological footprint.

DEATH GIVES LIFE

What comes together falls apart.

That goes for this universe, this living planet, our current civilization, humanity, each of us, and everything we know.

Our mammalian psyche may have a problem with that, but it’s actually wonderful.

It’s how anything is here in the first place. It’s how we are here.

We are here because all the states the universe has gone through have come and gone. Stars died and provided most of the matter making up this amazing planet and us. Species died and made space for us. Individuals died and made space for us.

Death opens up space for something new. Death is how we are here. Death is how anything is here.

Impermanence is even how we can experience anything at all. Each moment is gone and opens space for a new one.

Our civilization will be gone, perhaps opening space for a new one. Humanity will be gone, opening space for other species to perhaps eventually create their own civilization. This universe will likely be gone, opening space for a new one.

It’s all a kind of a dream. What’s here is gone, opening the space for something else.

To explore: The Universe story, the Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History.

HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, MEANING & GRATITUDE

Happiness comes and goes. Often, what creates happiness are small things in daily life. Holding someone’s hand. A hug. A kind word. Ice cream. A good meal. A beautiful sunrise. And so on. We can set up our life to create moments that spark happiness.

Contentment can come in different ways. We may live a life in integrity and be in relative peace with ourselves. We may relate to ourselves – and especially our distressed parts – with kindness. We may find our nature, our more fundamental home, and find contentment there. We may have been lucky with our parents and upbringing, naturally relate to ourselves and live our life with kindness and wisdom, and find contentment that way.

Meaning is again something else. We can find meaningful activities in our life, and those are often about creativity and expression, being of service to others and the larger whole, or a combination of the two.

Finding gratitude can contribute to each of these. I can find gratitude for the things my personality naturally is inclined to find gratitude for. (I have shelter, water, food, family, friends, a beautiful day, the song of birds, a kind word, and so on.) I can also do a more radical gratitude practice where I find gratitude for everything in my life, whether my personality tends to like it or not. This can bring about even more profound shifts.

To explore: Psychology that addresses these topics. See also this book.

KINDNESS TO OURSELVES

Some of the essentials I seek are love, understanding, safety, and so on.

I can give those to myself. I notice a distressed part of me, and I can meet it as a kind and wise parent would a child.

If our parents didn’t consistently do this for us, we likely didn’t learn to consistently do it for ourselves, so this can take intention, attention, and practice. It can be a lifelong process and more than worth it.

To explore: Resources on reparenting ourselves. Heart-centered practices like Ho’oponopono and tonglen directed toward ourselves. Self-compassion. The Befriend and Wake up process I have written about in other articles.

EVOLUTIONARY CONTEXT

I like to see behavior in an evolutionary contest. It helps me find useful and kind stories to understand myself, others, and other species.

We just traveled with our cat to a new place, and she was hesitant to drink the water. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. In a new place, it’s important to be careful with the water. Don’t drink if it’s not moving or if you don’t see others drink from it. I filled a glass with water, slurped some with delight while she was looking, and she happily drank (a lot!) from the same glass. (This is likely also why cats often like to drink water from the same glass as their humans. They trust it’s safe to drink if they see others drink it.)

I don’t have to beat myself up for having sugar cravings now and then. I understand why. It’s because my ancestors evolved to crave sugar because it helped them and their offspring survive. Sugar was found in rare and nutrient-rich foods like fruits, and the cravings helped them prioritize seeking out and eating these foods. In our modern world, this impulse has been hijacked by the food industry to sell products. I don’t have to be too hard on myself for having these cravings or even following them now and then, these cravings helped my ancestors survive. (And I can find practical strategies for dealing with them. For instance, only buying what’s on my shopping list, and having someone to be accountable to.)

When I am sick, I know that most (nearly all?) of my symptoms evolved to help me heal. The general fatigue and illness feeling motivates me to rest, which helps my body heal itself. Fever – increased temperature – helps my body kill pathogens. Diarrhea flushes out pathogens or undesirable food. And so on. This shifts how I relate to what’s happening when I am sick. I find more appreciation and even gratitude for my symptoms. (It also highlights one of the strange things some do in our culture, which is to try to counter or stop the natural self-healing processes of the body like fever, diarrhea, and so on.)

I have a fear of heights. That too is very understandable from an evolutionary perspective. My ancestors likely survived partly because they had some fear of heights, and the ones who did not were more likely to die young and not pass on their genetics. I can still work on this fear so it doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want.

To explore: Evolutionary psychology.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE LARGER WHOLE

How am I connected with the larger whole? Am I a separate being or is something else more true?

When I find my more fundamental nature, I find that the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. Already there, the ideas of separation break down, at least in how it all appears to me.

Through science, we also find stories of oneness and connection, and these inform our perception, choices, and life in the world.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

The universe is one seamless system. It has evolved and temporarily formed itself into you and me and our experiences and everything we know. It will continue to evolve and change itself into something new. (And that may not always conform to our ideas of “progress”!)

Our planet is one living system. Our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living system.

This helps me feel more connected as a human being, see myself as an expression of the larger whole, and behave in ways that (are more likely to) take care of this larger living system I am a part of.

To explore: Systems views, Universe Story, Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History, Deep Ecology.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Patterns in misophonia & sound sensitivity: humans vs nature

Since I was little, I have had misophonia and sensitivity to sounds. The misophonia is mostly triggered by chewing and paper and plastic rustling, and the sound sensitivity mostly to loud sounds and noise.

GENERAL PATTERNS

I have noticed some general patterns.

My system is more sensitive when I am exhausted or stressed, and it’s much easier if I am rested and relaxed.

The misophonia and sound sensitivity is triggered more easily when the sound is ongoing. The reaction builds up over time.

And I get more stressed if I think I am unable to do something about it. If I cannot do anything about the source, if I don’t have anything to put in my ears (often tight earbuds with music), or if I cannot remove myself from the sound. (That’s why traveling with others in a car, bus, train, or plane can be stressful for me.)

If I am more resourced, the sound doesn’t last too long, and I can do something about it, it’s much easier to deal with.

THE SOURCE OF THE SOUND

And there is also a difference depending on the source of the sound.

If the source of the sound (for instance, chewing sound) is a non-human being or a baby, it’s usually completely fine with me. I may notice a small reaction far in the background, but it’s OK.

If the source is a human that’s not a baby, that’s when the misophonia is triggered.

And it’s the same with noise sensitivity. If the source is humans, it can feel overwhelming. If the source is nature, it’s typically fine.

For instance, I am currently in the countryside in the Andes mountains (El Caucho outside of Barichara). Yesterday, there was construction noise nearby which I noticed bothered me. This morning, a neighbor had the radio on loud, which bothered me. (Especially since it’s Sunday at 5:30 am), while the guacharacas loudly crowing much earlier didn’t bother me at all.

WHAT THIS SUGGESTS

This suggests that my reaction is mediated by my mental field.

If the source is “innocent” as my mind sees it, there is less reaction.

And if I have stressful thoughts about the source, the reaction is stronger. Some of the thoughts I have identified and explored are “they should know better”, “the sound is aggressive” and “this is a symptom of our destructive civilization” (loud machines, chain saws, leaf blowers), “he is inconsiderate”, and so on.

WHAT I CAN DO ABOUT IT

These patterns give me several cues for what I can do about it.

I can continue to support my system to rest and build up energy. (I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so this is important for me in general.) I can make sure to get good sleep. Eat well. Rest before, during, and after any activity, and extra. Take my vitamins and herbs. (Vitamin D, Siberian Ginseng, and Echinacea seem especially helpful.) Receive energization with Vortex Healing. (Amazingly helpful.)

I can continue to find ways to manage the situation when it happens. I have earbuds with me. For longer travels, I bring noise-canceling earphones. If I am about to travel with people in a car, let them know in advance. If I am in a public space and people close to me are loud, I go somewhere else. And so on.

I have found it helpful to ask myself some questions. Is this too the voice of the divine? (I notice it directly so it’s not a “trick” and I’ll still do the other things.) How I would respond if the source was a baby or non-human being? Are not humans and human civilization also nature?

I can also explore mental representations triggered by these sounds, what they mean to me (underlying assumptions, associations), how I relate to them, and what’s more true for me. I have already done this with The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby Inuiries, and it has helped a lot, and there is more to discover.

WHAT’S THE CAUSE?

What’s the cause of misophonia and sound sensitivity?

I am not sure. It’s likely a combination of several things:

My stressful thoughts about the sounds and what they mean.

How resourced my system is.

We evolved in a generally much more quiet environment than many of us live in today, and this likely puts a lot of stress on our system. It’s not surprising if some of us are extra sensitive to sounds and noise.

And it doesn’t matter so much. I have some ways to work with it anyway.

Image by me and Midjourney. And, no, I won’t keep going on with black-and-white woodcuts forever! It’s just what I am drawn to right now.

Deep time overlay in daily life

All of us are informed by a myriad of mental images and words in daily life. Many or most of these operate without being consciously noticed although we can train ourselves to notice more.

DEEP TIME IN MY WORLD

Since I know my own world best, I’ll use myself as an example.

In my daily life, I often notice mental images and words relating to deep time.

My mind is creating an overlay from history, evolutionary psychology, and the universe story, and it’s using it to make sense of the world.

EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY

I often check in with evolutionary psychology if I see a behavior I am curious about.

For instance, when I hear or hear about the stress many experience, it’s natural to check it with an image of how our distant ancestors lived – in smaller groups and a much simpler life focused on gathering and hunting. That life had challenges too, of course, but it is simpler than our life so contrasting the two immediately gives us some understanding of why modern humans experience so much stress, anxiety, and depression.

When I see people who are overweight, or hear about eating disorders, or walk into a grocery store full of sugary things, I am also reminded of the environment we evolved in. We evolved to love sugary things since they were fruits, we didn’t so often come across fruits and they are full of valuable nutrients and energy, so it was good for us to have a strong desire to eat them. These days, that impulse is hijacked by the modern food industry where we are surrounded by sugary temptations and it’s not so easy for many of us to resist.

HISTORY

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised for long by most of what unfolded.

I knew that pandemics happen roughly one hundred years apart (there are obviously exceptions) so this one came right on time. (A century after the Spanish Flu.)

I have read and studied some epidemiology since my teens, so I knew what works in terms of measures we collectively can take to reduce the impact. So I was not surprised by the measures taken by most governments. They just followed standard pandemic guidelines based on what we know works from history. (There were some variations, of course, with Sweden and China as polar opposites. And that’s very good. That allows us to study and learn from it in hindsight.)

I was also not surprised by the upswing in conspiracy theories and groups of people being upset about some of our collective measures. In pandemics or other collective crises, there is an upswing in conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and fear relating to any change. (I was disappointed that some of my friends fell into it without apparently much awareness of how they were just repeating patterns from history.)

UNIVERSE STORY

Sitting here, and often in daily life, I am also aware of how I am literally stardust.

I and all of Earth are created from matter forged in ancient stars.

I am aware of my distant ancestors going back. to the very first single-celled beings Earth formed itself into.

I am aware of my intimate relationship with all Earth life.

I am aware that the universe has formed itself into all I am and all I am aware of.

MORE FUNDAMENTALLY CONSCIOUSNESS

There is another aspect here that is not really deep time, but maybe more a (kind of) deep psychology.

For a few decades now, I have found myself most fundamentally as consciousness.

To me, the world happens within and as this consciousness. (That includes anything within the content of experience, including this human self, any thoughts and emotions, any sense of a doer, observer, and so on.)

So when I see or imagine other beings, I assume that’s how it is for them too, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. I see an image of them too most fundamentally being consciousness, operating through and as the body-mind they function through and as.

That gives another depth to my world.

GOOD TO NOTICE

All of this is how my mental field gives some depth to my world.

And it’s very good to notice.

It’s good to notice that it is a mental overlay.

Although it gives depth and richness, and my personality mostly likes it, it’s good to hold it all lightly.

TRAINING OURSELVES TO NOTICE

We can train ourselves to notice these mental field overlays.

For instance, as I am sitting here I am aware of my mental images of the world beyond what I can take in with my senses, I am aware of mental images overlaying my visual field, I am aware of words and images roughly outlining the next few paragraphs, and so on.

The most effective way to learn to notice this that I have found is traditional sense field explorations and modern variations like the Kiloby inquiries.

And this helps us hold it all a little more lightly. Or, at least, notice when we don’t!

DEEP TIME RESOURCES

How do we develop a more of a deep time overlay on the world?

What resonates the most with you? What do you have curiosity, fascination, or passion about? What are you drawn to?

If you like history, take a look at Big History.

If it’s nature and the Earth, then deep ecology may be a good place to start.

If it’s spirituality, then just about all religions have an ecospirituality wing. You can also explore pagan or shamanic approaches.

If it’s science in general, systems views and an integral approach may be a good fit.

If it’s evolution, check out the epic of evolution and evolutionary psychology.

If it’s awe and a connection with the universe and existence as a whole, try the Universe Story.

If you are more interested in a direct and experiential approach, try Practices to Reconnect and different forms of inquiry (Kiloby Inquiries, the Big Mind process, perhaps also The Work of Byron Katie and Headless experiments).

Searching on any of these will bring up online groups, videos, podcasts, websites, books, and other good starting points. There is a lot out there on these topics.

Personally, I got into the Universe Story first, through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos when I was about ten. It changed my life and set me on this course. In my mid-teens, I got into deep ecology and systems views through Arne Næss and Fritjof Capra. I read everything I could get my hands on. In my twenties, I got into evolutionary psychology (as part of my psychology studies), Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, and the Epic of Evolution. I have organized several events where we used the Practices to Reconnect.

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Weeding the garden: Supporting the natural self-healing processes of the mind

To Turcich, the walk was a seven-year meditation, particularly the first two years, which were more solitary. As he walked, so much was going through his mind – his history, his values, his hopes. It all came to a head in the deserts of Peru and Chile. “I was on my own so much, just with my thoughts. The way I describe it is like weeding your garden. You don’t realise it, but your head is full of these weeds and when you’re walking, you’re on your knees pulling weeds. After about a year and a half, when I was down in south Peru, I felt like I’d thought all the thoughts, and the garden was clean. There was no more angst, no regrets, nothing I could pick through. I was in the Atacama desert, lying under a million stars, and it felt I was at the bottom of myself. All the doubts went.”

– The Guardian, The man who walked around the world: Tom Turcich on his seven-year search for the meaning of life

I haven’t walked around the world but love walking and I have noticed what he describes.

ALLOWING THE MIND TO SETTLE

If you put yourself in a situation where you don’t have too many (modern) distractions, the mind tends to settle on its own. This can be through walking, spending time in nature, doing art, playing music, meditation or mindful movement practice, or something else.

The shift can happen relatively quickly and may not last that long. Or it can gradually happen over time and be more lasting, for instance, through regular meditation practice, doing a meditation or mindful movement retreat, or walking for weeks or months.

SELF-HEALING PROCESS OF THE MIND

Just like our body, our mind is self-healing. Its dynamics are self-healing.

A part of that dynamic is to bring anything unresolved to the surface. What’s unfelt comes up to be felt, what’s unexamined to be examined, what’s unloved to be loved.

So although our mind, when less distracted, engages in a self-healing process, it’s not always pleasant.

Sometimes, when we start a period that’s more undistracted, it can be very uncomfortable. A lot of smaller issues and mental noise come to the surface and it takes time for the mind to naturally settle.

And sometimes, we can have long quiet periods, and then old issues activate and come to the surface.

(In my case, I found meditation very enjoyable in my teens and twenties and did it daily for hours at a time. More recently, at the onset of the dark night, a lot of deep trauma came to the surface which made it far more challenging for me to be with all of it.)

WHAT HAPPENS?

I am not exactly sure what’s happening, but here is my best guess:

Our mind has a natural self-healing tendency. When we are less distracted and mentally busy, this self-healing process is allowed to take place.

And that self-healing process takes a few forms.

As mentioned above, it involves feeling what’s unfelt (emotions, states), seeing what’s unseen (about ourselves, our role in situations), examining what’s unexamined (stressful stories), and finding love for what’s unloved (all of the above and more).

It involves shifting our relationship to stressful stories. We may identify stressful stories we were not aware of previously, which in itself is helpful. (If we are not aware of them, they run us. If we are aware of them, we can recognize them and relate to them more intentionally.)

We may come to recognize the stories for what they are. They are stories, questions about the world. They leave a lot out, and they are often not accurate. Holding onto them is stressful. And what’s genuinely more true for us is often more peaceful.

We may also learn to meet our experiences with more kindness. We may notice that a lot of our discomfort comes from struggling with our experience. And we may try out meeting it with more kindness and find it’s more comfortable and also helps us in our daily life. It’s more pleasant, kind, and wise.

We may also learn to meet our habitual patterns with more kindness. We recognize our mind and behavioral patterns. We may see that some were formed in response to difficult situations in our childhood. We may disidentify a little with these patterns, and find some compassion for ourselves. (And others, since they have their own.) And we may find a way to relate to these more consciously, even as they come up.

Something else may also happen through being with ourselves in a relatively undistracted manner and over time. And that is that we shift our relationship with our human self. We may notice that all content of experience comes and goes, including what we took ourselves to be. (This human self, these feelings, these thoughts, this name, these stories). If it all comes and goes, it can’t be what I most fundamentally am. So what am I, more fundamentally? What am I in my own first-person experience? Here, we may find ourselves as what any content of experience happens within and as. We find ourselves as the field that the world, to us, happens within and as.

All of this can happen naturally if we are undistracted over time. It seems part of the natural self-healing processes of the mind (and body). And it all either brings healing or supports healing.

SUPPORTING THE PROCESS

We can support this natural self-healing process in several ways.

The main one is to allow ourselves to be with ourselves in a relatively undistracted way, regularly and over time. This provides the condition for the self-healing process to take place. And we can do it in many ways, as outlined above. (Go for walks, knit, paint, play music, be in nature, play with children or animals, meditate, do mindful movement, go on a retreat, and so on.)

Receiving guidance for meditation is helpful. This can be basic meditation. (Notice and allow what’s here as it is, and notice it’s already allowed and noticed.) Heart-centered practices. (Tonglen, ho’oponopono, Heart Prayer, Christ meditation, etc.)

Training more stable attention helps this process, and just about anything else, enormously. (For instance, bring attention to the sensation of the breath at the nostrils. Rest in noticing those sensations. And gently bring attention back if it wanders.)

We can also be guided in more structured inquiry, and learn this for ourselves. We can learn to identify and examine stressful thoughts. (The Work of Byron Katie.) We can explore how the sense fields combine to create our experience. (Kiloby Inquiries, traditional Buddhist inquiry.) We can also find what we more fundamentally are, and get more familiar with noticing and living from (and as) it. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE

As usual, I find an evolutionary perspective helpful.

We evolved in nature and as part of nature, in relatively small groups, and to be active with our hands and body. We gathered food. Carried water. Chopped wood. Grew food. Sew and knitted clothes.

It’s only the recent generations that we have lived in a modern world with cities, apartments, a faster pace, and modern gadgets.

Our biology and mind evolved in nature, and many of us are living in a world that’s quite different.

I imagine that the natural self-healing process of our mind was allowed to unfold more freely for our ancestors. Even if they were active, they were typically less distracted and more focused on what was in front of them, so their mind had space to process and self-heal. (At least, to some extent.) In our modern life, we are typically so hurried and distracted (with the internet, news, podcasts, music, etc.) that our mind doesn’t have the same chance.

To give our mind that space, we need to recreate or mimic the life of our ancestors. It doesn’t necessarily mean living in nature and growing our own food. But it does mean engaging in more meditative activities, and perhaps arranging our life so these happen naturally as part of our daily life.

CAVEATS

Outlined like this, it all sounds relatively simple and straightforward.

But simple does not mean easy. It can still be challenging. (It is for me, with all the trauma that came up.) And that’s why it’s helpful to find support. It helps to find a group of people doing the same.

This process tends to bring up what’s buried. If we start on this process, for instance with meditation or mindful movement, and we know we have trauma, it’s good to have guidance from someone skilled in working with trauma, and ideally to have that support and guidance from the beginning before anything comes up.

And traumas and issues may come up that require more attention than just giving our mind space to heal. We may need more focused therapy, in whatever form is available to us and makes the most sense to us. (Talk therapy, somatic therapy, energy work, inquiry, and so on.)

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Finca Milagros - view

A rich and simple life: going to evolution for clues

How do we live a life that we experience as rich, fulfilling, and meaningful?

I often go to evolution for clues to these kinds of questions.

CHECKING IN WITH OUR EVOLUTIONARY PAST

How did we evolve? It obviously depends on the time and location, but in general… We evolved in small communities with close ties between the members. We evolved mostly in nature, with all our senses naturally engaged. We evolved interacting with nature in different ways, including foraging, planting, and tending to animals. We evolved working with our hands: Climbing, digging, throwing, planting, weeding, cooking, sowing, making simple pottery, and so on. We evolved being relatively active physically, doing daily tasks. We evolved helping others and our community. (And receiving help from them.)

We are made for that type of life. So it’s a good guess that something similar is what we will experience as natural, fulfilling, and even meaningful.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH A RICH LIFE

That’s how it is for me. During times when I am in nature and doing these kinds of tasks and activities, I feel naturally fulfilled and connected. This happens when I am at the cabin, which is in a forest and by a lake, without (much) electricity, where the heat comes from a fireplace, and where I need to chop wood and carry water. (If I am there by myself, I start missing people after one or two weeks.) It also happened when I lived in the countryside in Wisconsin (Mt Horeb), in an old farmhouse with a vegetable garden, where I got much of our food from working at a neighboring CSA farm one morning a week, and where just about all the food (vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat) came from neighbors I personally knew. (During this time, I was also involved in many meaningful community projects.)

Now, at Finca Milagros, this is even deeper in some ways. The house is mostly open to the elements. (The climate allows and encourages it.) We are planting a lot of food plants and other plants. We get more of our food from the local community and people we know. (And will get more as we make more connections.) We are engaging with the land and the local ecosystem in an even deeper way: we are supporting it to regenerate and rewild. There is a deeper sense of partnership with the land and nature there. And it’s also deeply fulfilling to know that this work will, hopefully, create the conditions for a better life for literally millions of beings.

When I have this kind of life, I find I don’t need very much. I mostly need the basics: shelter, water, food, and connections with a few people. (And for the latter, I appreciate the internet which is a kind of essential these days, even if I obviously could get by without it.)

When I don’t, during the times when I feel more disconnected from nature and people, I don’t feel very fulfilled. And that’s when things like compulsions, distractions, and consumerism come in.

THERE IS MORE GOING ON

Of course, this is very simplified. A sense of deficiency and lack also has a belief, identity, and emotional component. And not everyone is drawn to this type of life. But I would guess that the essence of this applies to most or all of us. We feel more fulfilled the more we are connected – to ourselves, others, and nature. And many of us feel more fulfilled when we are physically active and do and make things with our hands. (Which could take the form of yoga practice or a pottery class Thursday nights.)

THE QUESTION

The question then is: How can I bring more of this into my life now? How would my ideal (connected, engaged, meaningful) life look? And can I make a change in that direction?

These can be small steps: Take up yoga or tai chi. Grow some plants in the kitchen or on the balcony. Do a form of gentle mindfulness to connect with the body. Go for walks. Start up a book club with your neighbors. Adopt a cat. (Which is huge for the cat.) Join a pottery class. Learn about native edibles and wild foraging.

See below for more.

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Our brains and this world are not made to make us happy

In evolutionary psychology, it’s common to point out that our organism and nervous system is not made primarily for lasting happiness. It’s made to help us survive.

Of course, we experience happiness in periods, and some seem to have a higher set-point for happiness than others. Also, we can certainly experience a more stable contentment or a sense of gratitude, and that may be as good or better than happiness.

Perhaps this also goes for the world in general. It’s not created to make us happy.

If anything, it’s made for adventure. This world is the universe, existence, or life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

And, if we have a spiritual orientation, we can say that this world – this universe and all of existence – is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. Some call this lila.

Personally, I would take survival and adventure over happiness any day. If our human organism and brain were not made for survival, none of us would be here. To me, adventure is far more interesting than happiness. And as icing on the cake, we can still find contentment and gratitude, and even receive periods of happiness.

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Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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Wanting to know how fiction ends

Why do we have an impulse to know how compelling fiction ends?

FICTION CAN GO IN ANY NUMBER OF DIRECTIONS

I have often thought it’s a bit silly.

The story is made up anyway. It can go in a number of widely different directions.

It’s easy to imagine alternate endings that the author plausibly could have chosen. The reason the author landed on a particular ending may be because ofpersonal fascination, wanting to subvert expectations, wanting to draw in an audience, wanting to highlight a particular feature of human life, setting it up for the next part, practical or resource reasons, or something else.

Sometimes, the ending we looked forward to can even be disappointing, as we have seen in a recent TV series (GoT) and final movie trilogy (SW).

If this was the whole picture, there would be little or no reason to want to know how a story ends. So there must be something more going on.

EVOLUTIONARY IMPULSE TO TAKE IN STORIES

One answer may be in evolution. We have likely evolved to be fascinated by stories since these told our ancestors something important about themselves, their community, and their world. Stories gave them a survival advantage.

It’s easy to see how this is the case with stories from real life. The way the story is told reflects community values and orientations, so the listener gets to absorb these. And the content can offer practical information about social interactions, interactions with nature and wildlife, how to deal with unusual events that may return, and so on.

To some extent, fiction – mythology, fairy tales, tall tales – did the same. Fiction also conveyed cultural values and orientations. It gave people insights into interactions within the community and with outsiders and the natural world, and so on.

And it’s easy to see that the ending is an important part of the value of all of these stories.

Taking in compelling stories, from beginning to end, gave our ancestors a survival advantage.

GOOD FICTION REFLECTS DEEPER TRUTHS

There is an obvious value in stories from real life. We learn through the experience of others and how they chose to tell the stories.

And compelling fiction does the same, in a heightened form. Good fiction distills the essence out of real-life stories and reflects universal human truths. They are a way for us to learn something essential about ourselves, others, and the world.

NO CLEAR LINE BETWEEN STORIES FROM REAL LIFE AND FICTION

There is a fuzzy boundary between stories from real life and fiction.

When we tell stories from real life, we inevitably interpret, filter, highlight, leave out, and get things wrong. The story reflects us and what we find important, our worldview and values, our hangups and limitations, and so on. As we know, these stories are often told quite differently by others.

And compelling fiction reflects universal human dynamics and insights and has a deeper truth.

There is always an element of fiction in stories from real life, and elements of real life in fiction.

WHY DO WE WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING?

So why do we want to know the ending of fiction? Even if it’s obviously silly since the story is made up anyway?

One answer may be evolution. It gave our ancestors a survival advantage to take in stories, told by others in their community, from beginning to end.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of simplicity and clarity here. I have had a quite strong brain fog for a few weeks, and it makes it difficult to write with flow and clarity. Hopefully, I can return and clean this up a bit.

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The upside of discomfort

Physical discomfort has obvious upsides and evolutionary reasons for being here. It motivates us to make changes that helps our body, whether it’s standing up to walk when we have sat for a long period, drinking water when thirsty, or seeking out a doctor when we have a persistent physical pain or problem.

It’s the same with mind discomfort. That too has evolutionary reasons for being here. That too motivates us to create change and get things done.

And, for those weird like me, it also points to what’s left. It helps us notice remaining beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, and trauma. And it motivates us to do something about it – to find healing in how we relate to it and the world, to examine and find clarity around beliefs and identifications, to invite release for our wounds and traumas.

In the bigger picture, discomfort motivates us – in the best case – to align more consciously with reality.

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Making use of how people already are

Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. We are drawn to what’s shocking and unusual rather than long-term trends. We are more interested in this morning’s dramatic death than the thousands dying of hunger each day. We are more interested in what Trump tweeted at 5am than increasing social inequality.

The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers and readers. That’s how they maximize profit. They too act in their short-term interest.

And all of it is from evolution. For our ancestors, it was important to pay attention to anything that stood out and anything dramatic, and they rarely needed to pay attention to the big picture or slow trends. It’s how we, as a species, survived.

In a democracy, we need to get people to pay more attention to the serious and slower trends, and less on shorter term drama and entertainment. And we can do just that by taking evolution and how people really function into account, instead of wishful thinking about how people “should” function.

If we have sufficiently informed political and business leaders, we can set up structures so that what’s easy and attractive is also good in the long term and in the big picture.

And we can speak to people in general in ways that work with the mechanisms put into us by evolution: Tell compelling stories. Make it simple, immediate, and personal. Show how it aligns with the values and identities they already have. Make it genuinely attractive.

There are two more facets to this. Some of us seem wired to look more at the big picture and think about things in a more dispassionate way. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a species and community, we generally need many who are drawn to the immediate and a few drawn to the bigger picture.

And there is another reason why many tend to avoid thinking about the big picture: they feel they are unable to do anything about it. So we can add one more element to how to work with how people already function: Show that their actions do make a real difference. And make that too immediate, personal, and emotional.

Co-sleeping and evolution

I often use an evolutionary perspective to check how I live my life.

For instance, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to eat mostly less processed food, locally and with the seasons, low on the food chain, and varied foods (mainly vegetables with some fish and meat, and not the same every day). In terms of exercise, it makes sense with variation (walking, running, lifting, swimming), and to vary moderate activity with briefer periods of more explosive and intense activity. It also makes sense to bring it into everyday activities as much as possible. And in terms of child rearing, it makes sense to seek out a community (extended family, if possible) and also to carry the baby on the body and to sleep in the same bed as the baby. All of these things are how humans have done it for millennia and how our evolutionary ancestors have done it for millions of years. If there is a discrepancy between what experts recommend, and what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, I tend to choose the latter. (For instance, eating butter, eggs, and salt, all of which feel really good for my body in moderate amounts.)

I talked with a friend a couple of weeks ago about her new baby. She sleeps in the same bed as the baby (the baby usually on top of her), and it makes feeding natural and effortless for both of them. The baby stirs gently, she wakes and feeds the baby with just a few adjustments of her body, and they both fall back to sleep. It’s effortless, natural, and minimally disruptive to sleep.

In contrast, if we believe what someone came up with intellectually, we may choose to have the baby sleep separately which means the baby needs to make more sound to wake the mother (be more desperate), the mother needs to get up to feed the baby, the baby needs to be lifted, and it’s all far more disruptive and stressful. It can even be somewhat traumatizing to both of them, and especially to the baby. In an evolutionary perspective, sleeping alone and having to cry loudly to be fed is a signal it is not safe. And when that happens consistently, I imagine it has an impact on the child’s trust and sense of safety, and it’s something they may carry with them through childhood and into adulthood.

I know this is a bit simplistic. For instance, our ancestors’ lives varied over generations and was adapted to geography and climate. And I still find it a very helpful guideline.

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Identification = worried love

Why is there suffering?

That’s an old questions for us humans. (I realize that the real question, the one behind this one, is what can we do about it? That’s a topic for other posts.)

One answer is perhaps equally old: Suffering comes from beliefs. Identification with certain thoughts. Velcro. Mistaken identity.

These point to the same thing: Mind takes certain thoughts, certain images and thoughts, as real and true. It identifies with these thoughts. It takes their viewpoint. It sees the world from their perspective, and holds onto it as true. And it does that through associating these images and words with certain sensations (often different depending on the thought), and these sensations seem – to the mind – to lend solidity and reality to the thoughts.

Why does the mind do this?

It may be because we observe those around us doing it, as kids and later as adults. It seems to be what people do here. So we do it too. And we pass it on.

It may have an evolutionary function. Perhaps the stress created an extra urgency that somehow has offered a survival advantage for our ancestors. An advantage that outweighed the drawbacks of stress, struggle, and conflict.

It may also be a quirk of evolution. We evolved that way, to be inclined to identify with thoughts rather than recognizing them as thoughts, through a coincidence. Perhaps it could have gone a different direction. (I am not so sure about that, but it’s possible.)

It may also be that since thoughts – abstract representations using words and images – is a relatively new phenomenon in our evolution, we still haven’t quite figured out how to relate to it well. We are still novices when it comes to using this tool called thought. So we stumble. It’s still messy. And perhaps sometime in the future, we as a species will relate to it with more clarity.

In any case, it’s innocent.

And it’s Lila. The universe expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. The dance of life. Divine play.

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Evolution of the spirit

The idea of an evolution of the Spirit is of course just that, an idea.

The image of Spiritual evolution, stages, phases, changing characteristics, data, people supporting and talking about it, are all images happening within and as the mental field. Any sense it’s real and true happens because the thought that’s it’s true is taken as true. Any idea of it being inherent in reality is just that, an idea and an image. If I take the thought of spiritual evolution as true, I’ll perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

When this idea is examined more closely, it’s freed from being taken as true, and can still be quite helpful in some situations. It can be inspiring and interesting for some, it may serve as a hook or a first step into own exploration, it may offer a temporary sense of knowing or safety – along with some stress (!).

Spirit (reality, God, Big Mind) can be talked about has having several facets. One is capacity for awareness and it’s contents (aka Godhead). Another is as awareness and any experience happening within and as awareness. And yet another is the world of experiences and form. Even within the context of those distinctions, they are the same. (It’s the play of Spirit as capacity, as a seamless whole of awareness and it’s contents, appearing to itself in these three ways when filtered through an image of these three ways.) And I can only find those distinctions within my images, within my mental field overlay.

Evolves and doesn’t

As capacity and awareness, it’s easy to assume it stays the same. As form, it – according to the story of the universe from current western science – it evolves over time, from energy to simple hydrogen atoms to heavier elements to the earth coming into life to ecosystems, species, humans, culture, technology, science and everything happening within and through us humans. So in that sense, Spirit evolves. It evolves as form. It doesn’t evolve and it does, and that’s happening as images within the mental field.

Types of evolution

What are some of the types and mechanisms of this evolution? It’s a while since I explored this, so will just mention it briefly here.

As mentioned above, the universe seems to evolve over time from simplicity to complexity, from energy to matter to life. This form of evolution may be best explained through systems theories.

It may also happen through the mechanisms of biological/Darwinian evolution: variation, selection, reproduction etc. This has brought us humans to where we are today, with out biological possibilities and limitations. One interesting question here is the relationship between clarity on thoughts and evolution. Is there a biological tendency in us to take thoughts as true, or is it just learned and from culture? If there is this biological tendency, how did it come about? Has it been selected because it aids survival? To me, it seems that being more clear on thoughts aids healthy functioning and survival. It may be more likely that (a) too few people found this clarity to have an impact, (b) the selection pressure hasn’t been strong enough to select it out on a larger scale, and/or (c) although clarity on thoughts aids an healthy functioning, this may not translate into more children. Still, it’s possible that our biological evolution moves us in this direction, from a tendency to taking thoughts as true to a tendency to be more clear on thoughts. Or not.

It may happen through evolution of culture. Looking at the changes in human culture over time, from neolithic to today, we see different phases and stages. This can be seen as a meme evolution, driven by material, cultural and psychological factors.

Each of these maps of different types of evolution are from current western science. These maps and the data supporting them are images within my world of images. Recognizing that, through inquiry, they can be very helpful practical guidelines in some situations. Taking them as true, they become – among other things – a burden for me, a source of stress.

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Fascination with scary stories

Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.

Beliefs

When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me? 

An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self

What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.

Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.

I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.

All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.

It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.

And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.

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Evolution and inquiry

I often have an evolutionary perspective in the back of my mind when I explore something in my own life or on this blog, and yet don’t mention it so often.

So what are some of the connection between evolution and inquiry?

One basic connection is how evolution sets us with certain impulses and inclinations, and these may be supported by or clash with beliefs.

For instance, we have an innate impulse to survive and reproduce, which may be joined or supported by beliefs such as: I need to survive. It’s terrible to die young. I need a partner. I need sex. I need to have children. I need food. 

Some beliefs that may clash with our biological impulses or inclinations: I should eat less sugar. I shouldn’t be addicted. 

Many or most of these are beliefs held by our parents, teachers, friends and so on. They are in our culture, they are transmitted to us, and there are social dynamics at work to encourage us to adopt them (shame, guilt, pride, ridicule, rejection, acceptance, admiration), which means that many of these beliefs are really about others. For instance, if I am fat/unfit, people will judge me.

And then there are more basic beliefs: I am this body. It’s my body. It’s my thoughts. It’s my experience. It’s a body. It’s a thought. It’s an experience. It’s life. It’s death. It’s an impulse. It’s a drive. It’s from evolution. 

Universe fascinated by itself

The universe is fascinated by itself.

And in our case, the universe is fascinated by itself as an individual, a culture and a civilization, in all the ways we are fascinated by anything at all. At this level, there is no reason for it and it doesn’t need a reason.

In an evolutionary perspective, there is of course a reason. It makes good sense to be fascinated, to explore, experience, learn and so on. It aids survival to be interested in life, in our surroundings, in each other, in ourselves, in anything at all.

Today, this fascination is perhaps most obvious in our fascination in all forms of media – TV, internet, movies, podcast, music, performances, newspapers, magazines and so on. It’s an endless fascination where we absorb, experience, learn about ourselves, each other, the world,  and life.

It’s the fascination of the universe of itself, in all of these ways. It’s the universe evolved into a planet, and into a species for whom it makes evolutionary sense to be curious and interested in the world.

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Picky eaters

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina are compiling the first global registry of “picky eaters” in the hope of discovering why some people have trouble with food. They believe it may help find a genetic reason for some eaters’ intense dislike of certain foods, like broccoli, or beans with a “fuzzy” texture. They note some eaters’ pickiness is so deep-seated it interferes with their jobs, their relationships and their social lives. – Hate fish? Can’t eat veg? Doctors study picky eaters from BBC.

Empathy through evolutionary psychology: Picky eaters may survive better in some circumstances and omnivores in other, which is why we as humans have both possibilities, and why we as individuals are genetically predisposed to one or the other, and our environment brings one or the other out more prominently. It’s all natural.

Die Young, Live Fast, and compassion through evolutionary psychology

There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won’t just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society’s problems are – and it will suggest better solutions.
– from Die young; live fast, the evolution of an underclass in New Scientist

Another example of how evolutionary psychology can give us compassion for ourselves and others, and also practical guides for how to deal with individual and collective challenges.

Rumination

Rumination. It has a bad reputation in the psychology world, but where would we be without it?

Whenever is unresolved and important enough for us, attention goes there. Again and again.

It is an invitation to find a resolution, even if it is to a past event that only lives on in our minds.

We may find a resolution through talking about it with others. Especially if they don’t agree with us and offer a new and fresh viewpoint.

We may find a resolution through tiring of our old and habitual ways of approaching it, and finding another that works a little better. Such as taking responsibility for our own choices, actions, and how we relate to our inner and outer situation. Or exploring the beliefs behind it and finding what is more true and honest for us. Or even welcoming and allowing the stress that comes from it, with some compassion for ourselves.

I wouldn’t be surprised if rumination is not built into us by evolution.

If we stubbornly insist on approaching the topic of rumination the same way, then rumination is not so helpful for us.

But if we tire and change our approach, or are receptive to a new approach from the beginning, then rumination can be very helpful.

It is one of the ways we find resolution. Learn. Grow. Embrace more of our humanity.

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Quantum physics and evolution as pointers

The scientific approach in general is a good guideline and pointer for our own “spiritual” explorations.

And within science itself, it seems that the study of the very small and the very large both are fertile ground for pointers and guidelines for exploration.

Science in general helps us recognize that we don’t know. We operate from our own world of images and this is just a map. It may be very helpful in a practical sense in everyday life but there is no “truth” in it. Examples from quantum physics, the study of the very small, helps bring this home.

Through this, we notice that we may assume that there is an objective world “out there”, and it is helpful to act in daily life as if it is so, but this too is just an image. As is the images of a me and I (doer, observer). As we notice these images as images, as content of experience, there is an invitation for identification to release out of these images. We can still use any and all of them in a practical and pragmatic way, to help us function and orient in the world, but they are recognized as images, helpful tools only, and not any absolute truth. And we can notice what happens when there is identification with the viewpoints of some of these images, including the images of a me and I, and what happens when there is a softening or release of this identification and we are more free to play with and make use of these images while recognizing them as images only.

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Podcast: Written in code

Genes – what are they good for? Absolutely… something. But not everything. Your “genius” genes need to be turned on – and your environment determines that. Find out how to unleash your inner-Einstein, and what scientists learned from studying the famous physicist’s brain.

Also, the bizarre notion that your children inherit not just your genes, but also the consequences of your habits – smoking, stress, diet, and other behaviors that turn the genes on.

Plus Francis Collins on affordable personal genomes, and a man who decoded his own DNA in under a week.

Written in Code, the most recent podcast from Are We Alone? Science radio for thinking species, is excellent, as always. The segment on epigenetics is especially interesting.

Not happiness

As they like to point out in evolutionary psychology, we are designed for survival and reproduction, not for happiness. Happiness is just one of many emotions and impulses that guide choices and action, and have been selected for through the generatons. It is one of many “modules” that has a survival and reproductive value for us, and is not a goal in itself – although it certainly may appear that way for us at times.

And it seems that it is the same from the perspective of the universe as a whole, or reality, or God. The universe express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways, in its infinite richness, and one of the ways it does this – at an obvious level – is through evolution. The universe evolves from energy to matter to galaxies to solar systems to living planets to ecological systems to social systems to technology, science, and art, and the everyday experiences of any being – and in all of these ways it express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways. Happiness is one of innumerable facets of how it explores and experiences itself.

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Why does attention go to what bothers us?

When I get a small rock in my shoe, attention goes there allowing me to notice it and do something about it.

And that is an example of a much more general pattern. Attention goes to what bothers me, so I can notice it and do something about it.

Sometimes, I do something about it in the world, like removing a pebble from my shoe. Other times, I notice and inquire into a belief. Or there is a combination.

So why does attention to go what bothers us?

In an immediate sense, it is easily explained. Something feels off, so attention goes there so we can do something about it. If it is resolved, attention moves on. If it is not resolved in a satisfying way, attention will tend to return.

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